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Joe Mercer
Personal information
Full name Joseph Mercer
Date of birth 9 August 1914
Place of birth    Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, England
Date of death    9 August 1990 (aged 76)
Place of death    England
Playing position Left half
Youth career
Ellesmere Port
Senior career1
Years Club App (Gls)*
170 (1)
247 (2)   
National team
1938-1939 England 5 (0)
Teams managed
Sheffield United
Aston Villa
Manchester City
Coventry City
England (caretaker)

1 Senior club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only.
* Appearances (Goals)

Joseph 'Joe' Mercer, OBE (9 August 1914 - 9 August 1990) was an English football player and manager.


Playing career

Mercer was born in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, the son of a former Nottingham Forest and Tranmere Rovers footballer, also named Joe. Joe Mercer senior died, following health problems resulting from a gas attack during the war, while his son was only 12[1]. In later life, after his footballing career was over, Joe Mercer junior became a regular attendee at Tranmere Rovers due to his father's involvement.

Joe Mercer, a left-half, first played for Ellesmere Port. He was a powerful tackler and good at anticipating an opponent's moves. He joined Everton in September 1932 at the age of 18 and claimed a regular first team place in the 1935-36 season. Mercer made 186 appearances for Everton, scoring two goals and a winning a League Championship medal in the 1938-39 season. While playing for Everton he gained five England caps between 1938 and 1939.

Like many players of his generation, Mercer lost out on seven seasons of football due to the Second World War. He became a sergeant-major and played in 26 wartime internationals, many of them as captain. The Everton manager Theo Kelly accused Mercer of not trying in an international against Scotland, but in reality Mercer had sustained a severe cartilage injury. Even after consulting an orthopaedic specialist, the Everton management refused to believe him and Mercer had to pay for the surgery himself. During the war Mercer guested for Chester, making his debut in a 4–1 win over Halifax Town in September 1942 [2].

Mercer moved in late 1946 for £9,000 to Arsenal, commuting from Liverpool; Theo Kelly brought Mercer's boots to the transfer negotiations to prevent Mercer having a reason to go back to say goodbye to the other players at Everton[3]. He made his Arsenal debut against Bolton Wanderers on 30 November 1946 and soon after joining Arsenal, Mercer became club captain. As captain, he led Arsenal through their period of success in the late 1940s and early 1950s, helping to haul his side from the lower end of the table to win a League Championship title in 1947-48.

Mercer went on to win an FA Cup winner's medal in 1950 and was voted FWA Footballer of the Year the same year. He led Arsenal to Cup final in 1952, which they lost 1-0 to Newcastle United, but the following year bounced back to win his third League title with Arsenal winning the 1952-53 League Championship on goal average. Mercer initially decided to retire in May 1953, but soon recanted and returned to Arsenal for the 1953-54 season. However, he broke his leg in two places after a collision with team-mate Joe Wade in a match against Liverpool on 10 April 1954, and finally called time on his footballing career the year after. Mercer played 275 times for Arsenal in all, scoring two goals.

Managerial career

After his playing career ended Mercer spent a little over a year working as a journalist and a grocer. His wife's family had encouraged him to become involved in grocery during his time at Everton and, while still Arsenal's captain, he ran his grocery business from 105-107 Brighton Street, Wallasey.[4]. He became known as the Footballing Grocer in football annuals of the late forties and fifties.

On 18 August 1955, he returned to football, becoming manager of Sheffield United two days before their first game of the season against Newcastle United. Mercer was appointed to replace manager Reg Freeman who had died during the close season. As a manager he began inauspiciously and his first season ended in relegation; despite Mercer buying Derek Pace, who would go on to become a hero at Sheffield United, from Aston Villa for £12,000 on 26 December 1957.

The rest of his time as manager was spent in the Second Division and in December 1958, wanting to move to a bigger club, he resigned and moved to Aston Villa who were bottom of the First Division. Although he led them to the FA Cup semi-finals he was relegated to Division Two for a second time. He moulded a talented young side at Villa and his team became known as the 'Mercer Minors'. He led Villa to victory in the inaugural League Cup in 1961 but suffered a stroke in 1964, and was then sacked by the Aston Villa board upon his recovery.[5]

Despite this his health improved and he went on to enjoy great success as a manager with Manchester City between 1965 and 1971. In his first season at Maine Road, the club won the 1966 Second Division title to regain top-flight status. Two seasons later Mercer led Manchester City to the 1968 First Division championship, and went on to win the FA Cup (1969), League Cup (1970), and European Cup Winners' Cup (1970).

In 1970-71 Mercer had a dispute with his assistant Malcolm Allison, after the two men became embroiled in Manchester City's takeover battle. Mercer supported the existing Board, led by the respected Albert Alexander, while Allison supported the rival group after being promised that he would be manager in his own right[6].

The takeover succeeded, and Mercer was shocked to discover that his car parking space and office were removed. This led to Mercer's departure to become manager of Coventry City, whom he managed from 1972 to 1974. During the same time Mercer was also caretaker manager of the England national football team for a brief period in 1974 after Sir Alf Ramsey's resignation. He was in charge for seven matches, during which time England won the 1974 British Home Championship title (shared with Scotland); in total Mercer was in charge for seven games — winning three, drawing three and losing one.

Retirement and legacy

After quitting as Coventry City boss, he served as a director of the club from 1975 to his retirement in 1981. He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to football in 1976. He suffered with Alzheimer's Disease in later life and died, sitting in his favourite armchair, on his 76th birthday in 1990.[7].

He is commemorated by his old club Manchester City with the road Joe Mercer Way at the City of Manchester Stadium being named after him. On the road there are two mosaics by renowned Manchester artist Mark Kennedy of Mercer; one shows his smiling face lifting the League Championship trophy; the other is a version of a famous photograph showing his legs from behind as he looks out over the Maine Road pitch towards the Kippax Stand.[8].

At Maine Road a corporate suite, The Joe Mercer Suite, was officially opened by his widow Norah in 1993. A similar facility named after him exists at Goodison. In 1993 Mercer's official biography, Football With A Smile, was written by Gary James. It sold out within six months. In November 2009 it was announced that the book would be revised and re-published early in 2010.[9]



As a player



As a manager

Aston Villa

Manchester City


Hall of Fame


Managerial statistics

Team Nat From To Record
G W L D Win %
Sheffield United England August 1955 December 1958 156 64 57 35 41.0
Aston Villa England December 1958 July 1964 282 120 99 63 42.6
Manchester City England July 1965 June 1971 292 124 86 82 42.5
Coventry City England June 1972 May 1974 90 29 39 22 32.2
England England 1974 1974 7 3 1 3 42.9


  1. ^ Gary James (1993). Football With A Smile: The Authorised Biography of Joe Mercer, OBE. pp. 16. ISBN 0-9514862-9-2.  
  2. ^ Chas Sumner (1997). On the Borderline: The Official History of Chester City 1885-1997. pp. 59. ISBN 1-874427-52-6.  
  3. ^ Corbett, James (2003); p104 Everton:School of Science publ by MacMillan ISBN 0330420062
  4. ^ Gary James (1993). Football With A Smile: The Authorised Biography of Joe Mercer, OBE. pp. 65. ISBN 0-9514862-9-2.  
  5. ^ Clayton, David (2002). Everything under the blue moon: the complete book of Manchester City FC - and more!. Edinburgh: Mainstream publishing. ISBN 1-84018-687-9.  
  6. ^ Gary James (1993). Football With A Smile: The Authorised Biography of Joe Mercer, OBE. pp. 247–266. ISBN 0-9514862-9-2.  
  7. ^ Gary James (1993). Football With A Smile: The Authorised Biography of Joe Mercer, OBE. pp. 290. ISBN 0-9514862-9-2.  
  8. ^ Gary James (2008). Manchester - A Football History. pp. 461–462. ISBN 978-0-9558127-0-5.  
  10. ^ "Latest news - Hall of Fame 2009". National Football Museum. Retrieved 2009-07-08.  
  • Harris, Jeff & Hogg, Tony (ed.) (1995). Arsenal Who's Who. Independent UK Sports. ISBN 1-899429-03-4.  

External links


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